Gender stereotyping could be more common in children living in joint or extended families than those from nuclear families, a study of city kindergarten students has suggested.
Children from the two schools: Podar Jumbo Kids kindergarten, Santacruz and a Marathi and Hindi medium pre-primary school in Bandra, were asked to choose toys to play with. Out of 150 students, 78% of children from nuclear families (consisting only of a father, mother and children) were gender-neutral while choosing toys: boys selected kitchen sets to play with and girls chose doctor sets.
Conversely, 80% of children from joint families (comprising grandparents and often also other relatives) conformed to gender stereotypes, with more girls choosing kitchen sets and boys selecting doctor sets. The study also interviewed teachers and the parents of the students.
The study, conducted by Podar Institute of Education after recent incidents of corporal punishment in schools, aims to identify incorrect teaching and parenting practices that lead to bad behaviour in children. Inculcating a gender-neutral attitude in children makes them less prone to violence, the study said.
“One of the major reasons behind such a trend is that kids from nuclear families see their parents sharing duties, such as the father cooking or helping in the kitchen,” states the study.
Using sentences like “Boys don’t cry” can also increase aggression in toddlers. “When teachers say ‘Don’t cry like a girl’, it can cause boys to be insensitive towards girls. It also makes them violent as they try to find other ways to vent emotions,” says Swati Popat Vats, president, Podar Education Network.